What Age Does a Child Need to be to Decide Which Parent They Live With?
Child's Wishes for Custodial Parent is Currently Up to Judge's Discretion
Currently there is no specific age where the Court will consider the wishes of a child in deciding custody matters. Family Code Section 3042 requires the Court to consider and give due weight to a child's preference regarding custody if the child is of sufficient age and capacity to form an intelligent opinion on the issue. However, this code doesn't specify a certain age nor does it contain a standard percentage of weight for the Judge to place on child's wishes.
Currently there is no specific age where the Court will consider the wishes of a child in deciding custody matters.
The Law Becomes More Specific Concerning a Child's Age in the Decision of the Custodial Parent in 2012
However, commencing 1/1/12, California AB 1050 amends this statute to add that the judge must also consider such a child's wishes re visitation. This amendment further adds that child who is at least 14 years old must be allowed to directly address the court regarding custody and visitation, unless judge finds that it would not be in child's best interests, in which case the reasons must be stated on record.
This section specifically does not prevent younger children from addressing the Court on these issues if appropriate and consistent with the best interest of the child. Currently, Family Code §3042 permits the Judge to provide alternate method for learning about child's preferences if it precludes calling him or her as witness; as amended, §3042(e) now requires the provision of such an alternative.
The Amended Family Code Section 3042(f) adds that child's counsel, evaluator, investigator, or mediator (who is submitting custody or visitation recommendation) must tell the judge if the child wants to address him/her directly or if the parents or their counsel would like to divulge the child's wishes.
Source: AB 1050 (Child's preference as to custody and visitation)
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